To the delight of viewers and chagrin of most critics, MTV has been sporadically airing two new Beavis and Butt-Head episodes on the odd Thursday night. More often than not, it’s a win-win for everyone. When all four skits (or, as with “Holy Cornholio”/”Drones,” a pair of extended plots) are on their game, bemoaning additional running time is like complaining that there’s simply too much kindness in the world. But tonight, the show just wasn’t operating at its usual strength, and even tripped over some punchline retreads and relatively uninspired sketch concepts as the hour went along.
Things did start off on a high note. “Used Car” begins and ends with the guys flinging pizza at each other in the lot of Tardino’s used cars (as mentioned last week, there’s been a nice adherence to basic story structure since the reboot). In between, they unwittingly rope the dealership’s naïve salesman and greedy manager into thinking they’re not only in the market for a vehicle, but are savvy customers to boot.
In a strange, unacknowledged overlap, the salesman, Ahmed, is a return of the same character Beavis and Butt-Head sabotaged at the telemarketing office in “Tech Support.” Although once again, the poor guy is a casualty of B + B’s stupidity, since they crash and burn during the test drive and cost Ahmed his job. (He and Mr. Van Driessen sure do get the shaft, but more on that later, and no vehicular pun intended.)
What’s funny about “Used Car” is how the manager gets outwitted by genuine numbskulls and sees his own shady tactics backfire against him. It’s like watching two savants inadvertently turn the tables on an intrusive shyster a la Jerry’s classic smackdown of a telemarketer on Seinfeld, just less privileged and uncomfortable to watch.
And as always, their skewering of MTV’s teen-natal subgenre is always gold. Butt-Head scores the lines of all lines as they take in True Life: I Have Embarrassing Parents 2, a shot lingers on a humiliated daughter and he says with faux-compassion, “This is the one girl that really deserves to be emo.”
The next mini-sode, “Bounty Hunters,” was a strange one, and never really gelled. There was some blunt political allegory, which was largely absent last week. After encountering a man they mistake for Dog the Bounty Hunter (huge sigh of relief that it wasn’t an actual Dog cameo) and gearing up to track down fleeing criminals (don’t ask), Beavis and Butt-Head scan for convict flyers in the post office. Except they walk right by the actual “Wanted” posters and ID President Obama, Rick Perry and the Postmaster General as their targets.
It’s a funny setup, but quickly goes nowhere when they decide instead to go after a group of karate students at a local dojo and get their asses kicked by the Chuck Norris-like instructor. There’s quite a bit of Bart Simpson-worthy cartoonish violence inflicted on B + B throughout tonight’s first half hour, a sort of broadness that doesn’t evoke the same laughter as when, say, Butt-Head condemns a ridiculous Avi Buffalo video by guffawing and uttering, “White People.”
"Time Machine," the first half of tonight's second double-bill installment, has the overall strongest premise going for it. Mr. Van Driessen takes the class on a field trip to Prairie Falls, an authentic recreation of a 19th century homestead, where he entices his students that they may cross paths with his “great, great grandpappy,” Tobias Van Driessen. Oy.
Sometimes, the boys’ well-meaning but passé hippie teacher just begs to be debased. Still, you feel bad that Beavis and Butt-Head bungle his plan to score with a hot olden times re-enactor. (They’re convinced that they’re really in the past and, Back to the Future-style, they can ensure Van Driessen is never born to educate and bore them if his great-grandfather doesn’t get laid.) Then again, when Van Driessen recollects a past encounter with the lady and how she may remember him as “Squire Robin,” that pretty much squanders any empathy. And is very funny and ridiculous.
Ditto for B + B’s interactions during a scene from 16 & Pregnant. There’s usually one snappy, Abbott & Costello-style rant between them each episode, and it’s always a highlight. As the pregnant teen interviews for a pizzeria job and role-plays a customer phone call with her potential boss, Butt-Head intones his serious voice and observes, “She’s like, so you’ll call me on my hand then.” Beavis, taking this scenario to the next logical hypothetical step, adds, “Yeah, I’ve been sitting by my hand all day. I guess I didn’t get the job.” There’s not enough of that over the course of tonight’s cumulative hour.
Good thing the final vignette, “Massage,” ends on a superlative high note. B + B have themselves a surreal little soft rock-scored Mallrats adventure right out of a ‘70s sitcom opening, and then get stopped in their tracks by hot women getting shiatsu massage. After making feeble attempts to start their own rival kiosk and steal their Asian competitors’ business, they get stuck with a choice: pretend to work for their rivals and rub down a disgusting, obese customer with body odor that’s “just the muscle eating the bone,” or get busted for stealing janitorial equipment to build their ill-fated masseuse chair. Just your average, everyday sitcom hijinks.
There’s some dicey racial humor throughout “Massage,” but the joke’s ultimately on Beavis and Butt-Head (although Beavis shrugs and opines that at least their anxious, sweaty patron “does have boobs”) and, as is common for Mike Judge, the outsized and horrifically lethargic piece of human waiting in their chair. Besides, it’s pretty hard to avoid cracking up when Beavis tries following Butt-Head's instructions to act Chinese by incanting, “Me Chinese, me play joke, me put pee-pee in your Coke.”
- Not as many as usual given there were four sketches, but some favorite lines: “We’re under the car’s rear end.” “Yeah, we’re smart.” “C’mon Butt-Head, that’s enough.” “I had sex with a clown to get that glitter.” “Ya know what I mean, zero dollars for a car, that’s not that expensive.” “That was actually funny.” “This first part of this song sounds like that music they play at the Olive Garden.” “So young. They had their whole lives ahead of them.” “It’s ’84 all over again.” “Now that will be $9,154 please.” “That’s how she answers the phone…. “I’m a whore, hello.” “The side that makes the music is definitely white.” “I saw it on MSNBC Lockup: Raw.” “Let’s just all go down to the smoosh room and spit on each other.” “Now you go. You go to hell!” “I used to love this mall.”
- Was all that Olive Garden stuff another possible Dave & Buster's-esque product placement? I didn't see the version with commercials so am curious if the ep was walled with Olive Garden ads.
- In “Used Car,” I loved Ahmed shaking his fists and the onlooker gawking at the accident.
- The Jersey Shore stuff’s really getting same-y. Smoosh room this, DTF that….
- That said, Beavis’ Pauly D imitation is gold.
- More At the Movies segments please.
- Was that also the same homeless guy from “Werewolves of Highland”?
- Wish there was better use of characters on the periphery this week.
- That moment of them praying was just epic. Ricky Bobby would be proud.
- Apparently, I was mistaken in believing last week’s episode to be the season’s penultimate. So onward we got for a few more weeks!